IDS leads fight in euthanasia row

Click to follow
Indy Politics

Ex-Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith is leading a Commons fight today against new laws critics say introduce euthanasia by the "back door".

Ex-Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith is leading a Commons fight today against new laws critics say introduce euthanasia by the "back door".

Christian lawyers and medics last night issued a plea for MPs to oppose the moves in the debate.

But leading charities earlier insisted fears that euthanasia would be legalised were "misplaced and misguided".

The row centres on "living wills" that would allow people to say they want medical treatment withheld if they become severely incapacitated.

The Mental Capacity Bill will introduce a legal presumption that everybody can make decisions about treatment unless proved otherwise.

It would allow them to give someone else the power of attorney to make decisions on their behalf.

Doctors would have to apply to a court of protection to challenge the decision.

Ministers insist the Bill will not change laws on assisted suicide and would protect patients unable to make decisions themselves.

However, critics say it will allow "killing by omission" through withdrawing treatment including food and fluids.

Ninety-one MPs signed a petition started by ex-Tory leader Mr Duncan Smith saying the Bill should specifically prevent decisions to bring about death.

Conservatives and Liberal democrats have been given a free vote.

However, there is concern among some Labour MPs like Claire Curtis-Thomas that incapacitated people will be unable to change their minds.

She has told how her mother, after suffering a stroke, signed a directive saying she wanted to be helped to die if she became incapacitated again.

But five years later in a similar situation she had changed her mind and "blinked out, 'I want to live"'.

Minister David Lammy has said there is a clear presumption in favour of life.

That was challenged last night by the Christian Medical Fellowship and Lawyers' Christian Fellowship.

Peter Saunders, of the CMF, which represents over 4,500 UK Christian doctors, said the Bill meant doctors will have to withhold food and fluids even if they think it inappropriate.

"CMF is concerned that patients will make unwise and hasty advance decisions to refuse food and fluids without being properly informed about the diagnosis and the expected course their illness will take or the treatment and palliative care options," he said.

However the Making Decisions Alliance, which includes the Alzheimer's Society, Age Concern, Mencap and the National Autistic Society among its members, called on MPs to support the Bill.

"It will not change the current law on euthanasia and will actually provide a series of better safeguards when decisions are made for people who lack capacity," the group said.

"We have labelled fears that the Bill will legalise euthanasia as misplaced and misguided."

Comments